"A place for linguistic diversity", a no-brainer for Vanessa Mestre, director of the Choisy theatre. "The promotion of culture through languages combined with artistic creation highlight the diversity of the populations that make up the territory." For the director of the National Interest Convention Stage, this project is fundamental to building this essential link in the city. A woman of conviction, tenacious and resolute, her will and energy never give up. Public support strengthens her choices and her commitments.
"Take into account the reality of the people, integrate it, work with it through the prism of language, hear their wealth, listen to this multilingual culture, offer a place for multidisciplinary shows and fight for programming worthy of the service public" are a fertile and precious soil that "makes it possible to build something that has relevance" for Vanessa Mestre. The Choisy theatre, today, has a good attendance. 80% of the audience is local and this year, the program reaches 70% women. There is even an overrepresentation!"
a theatre that works for the well-being of people
A city theatre must bring people together. For the director of the theatre of Choisy: creation, mediation, artistic education have a real meaning, a real scope. And then there is the establishment of residencies: the arrival of the Congolese dancer and choreographer, DeLaVallet Bidiefono, who expresses the language of the body as an extension of the project; that of Denis Podalydès, accompanied by Éric Ruf, Laurent Mauvignier, who stages The Storm Alexandre Ostrovski, with this troupe of comedians of the Comédie française who play for 3 weeks during the Christmas holidays. "And this happy audience who comes to see you at the end of the show, it’s dizzying." This year, the Choisy theatre welcomes, among others, Didier Ruiz to work on his new creation. Offering another way of seeing, thinking, responding to the charter of a conventioned scene "by affirming the civic footprint of a theatre in the city", is a necessity to shape "a theatre that works for the well-being of people".
Meet Vanessa Mestre
Is linguistic diversity the major and predominant argument in the development of contemporary theatre creation for the Choisy theatre?
"The theatre accompanies almost exclusively multilingual artistic projects, presenting one or more languages on stage, or of international scope. The programming obviously welcomes them within a construction of eclectic shows, of contemporary writing, which fall under different aesthetics and for all ages. Linguistic diversity thus colours the programming that is open to the world and its multiple cultures, with a course of action attentive to ensure that it is never synonymous with assignment."
How would you define linguistic diversity? And in what way is linguistic diversity essential to you?
'My project focuses on enhancing the diversity of people, expressions and territories in which plurilingualism becomes a requirement in today’s societies. Its primary function is to maintain the diversity of viewpoints, to open the mind to otherness. I can only quote Michel Serres on what is beyond languages :
'Languages are a treasure and convey something other than words. Their function is not limited to contact and communication. They are on the one hand fundamental markers of identity, they are structuring, on the other hand, of our perspectives. '
My reflections have constantly brought me back to the consideration of cultural diversity, which is essential vis-à-vis the territory where the Theatre is established and therefore the intercultural dialogue that must be conducted with the interest of carrying out an international project. But inviting and showing the world on a stage is not enough, and after an experiment on linguistic diversity carried out by the previous director of whom I was the assistant, I decided to extend a single and singular route and give a broader scope of intervention for cultural rights.
Working on cultural rights, in concrete terms, means telling people that all the cultures they hold are important, and it means allowing everyone the right to participate in cultural life.
The conventioned scene dedicated to the enhancement of cultural diversity in general is thus working more broadly on these important issues, marking the civic footprint of a theatre in the city.
© Façade of the Choisy Theatre and Cinema
Linguistic diversity also means opening up the field of language definition and in particular to consider the body’s languages as stakeholders. Thus choreographic creations are completely integrated into the scope of work. I am also attentive to the LSF by inviting signed shows as much as possible.
Tell me about this linguistic diversity that necessarily intersects with cultural diversity?
The culture of diversity is that of the plurality of views, of thought and of expressions, with respect for singularities.
First of all, the representativeness of the population must be reflected on stage as well as in the audience. Today, we must encourage the presence of immigrants and multicultural creators and performers. I have found that this better representativeness on the stage promotes a greater social diversity of the audience in the theatres.
To say that all cultures are important is to give them hospitality and a window of visibility by welcoming international programming in a multicultural scope by making room for the diversity of languages, the origins and cultures that contribute to the richness of today’s artistic expressions. The territory has a key card: many inhabitants have an international history. To share these forms and stories elsewhere is to give an artistic identity to a territory and reduce the tendency for community withdrawal.
It is to welcome artists present in France or in Europe who grasp their own history, and who question through the prism of the stage what constitutes the major issues such as migration, artists who engage the public in the experience of otherness. It is to enhance the cultures present and also to get closer to the cooperations that the city conducts, or even European devices.
© view of the Choisy theatre
Does a theatre have to be part of the territory, totally embracing the place where it is established? The public square? Should we be talking about a territory or territories?
"I will answer modestly in my place as a director of a city theatre which indeed receives the responsibility of addressing the local population as a priority. The writing of an artistic and cultural project must be based on an observable situation, taking into account realities. And it is as strong of these specificities that we can open new paths, experiments and truly write a story to share with the population. This is what we call the footprint of a theatre in the city and it is fundamental to me that behind the logic of programming and broadcasting, there is a backdrop, a backbone. The place of the public? It is central through dissemination, EAC, public awareness."
Is it difficult to run a theatre? Is passion the greatest inspiration in your mission?
It is a rare profession and a privilege, a vocation that can be discovered. And great responsibilities. They are attached to the management and its many obligations but especially to the trust that a public gives you.
In a few days, March 8 is International Women’s Rights Day, what do you think about the place of women in the cultural space?
I naturally wrote a season that is based on more than 70% of women creators, writers and directors. It was not an exercise but the highlighting of what I wanted to share with the public this season and it turns out that they are mostly women. And so much the better! My project will have trouble raising the averages which are still low, the professional sector is aware but insufficiently mobilized on the issues of parity.
A stage agreed for linguistic diversity, what is it?
A look at the unique and unique project at the Choisy-le-Roi Theatre
The Théâtre de Choisy-le-Roi is a place for the presentation of multidisciplinary shows, part of which is dedicated to the current international scene in all its forms, and when it is expressed in words, original and foreign languages are preferred. Why? Because the Theatre is located in a city rich in its cultural diversity and the languages spoken there and giving them hospitality, it is building an original and unique dialogue with the population.
This approach takes into account in concrete terms the equal dignity of individuals and their cultures and seizes a powerful tool of cultural rights. The hosting of shows in a foreign language is not limited to the languages most easily crossed in the territory because the multilingual population does not put any stop to go to languages that it does not master, She believes that theatre is an open place to hear the world. Witness the reception this season of the Thai theatre of Wichaya Artamat, of the "Shaeirat Project"in Arabic, or wolof which will be invited in the latest creation of Mikaël Serre "Dialaw Project".
The direction of the Théâtre de Choisy-le-Roi is entrusted in 2021 to Vanessa Mestre who decides to extend the experimental work axis of the conventioned scene, convinced that taking into account the cultural diversity of the population is an essential step towardsand that the significant presence of languages spoken in the city is a privileged tool for creating links. Diversity thus finds its concrete implementation within the project as a component of the cultural rights that are expressed, to continue creating places for artists and inhabitants to meet.
Linguistic diversity is also the reception of the international contemporary scene by inviting people to travel and by awakening their consciences to the realities of others, both poetically and politically.
The project deploys its side of the professional sector by accompanying the artistic and technical teams, both French and international, to the implementation of adaptation, translation and over-titling, around creations that have the desire to export, invite several languages to the set, revisit their over-titling or translation. This work is as unique and singular as an artistic creation. In order to make its action more visible to professionals, the second edition of the programme to support linguistic diversity has just been published as a call for projects.